the cherishing or pursuit of high or noble principles, purposes, goals, etc.
the practice of idealizing.
something idealized; an ideal representation.
Fine Arts. treatment of subject matter in a work of art in which a mental conception of beauty or form is stressed, characterized usually by the selection of particular features of various models and their combination into a whole according to a standard of perfection.
Compare (def 2), (def 3a).

any system or theory that maintains that the real is of the nature of thought or that the object of external perception consists of ideas.
the tendency to represent things in an form, or as they might or should be rather than as they are, with emphasis on values.

Contemporary Examples

Today, we still believe that wisdom in politics above all counsels realism as to means and idealism as to ends.
How Obamacare Delays Are Hastening Despotism James Poulos March 27, 2014

For Moses, the idealism of Freedom Summer was inseparable from the practical task of making it work.
The 1964 Miss. Freedom Summer Protests Won Progress At a Bloody Price Nicolaus Mills June 20, 2014

In the cesspool of cynicism that is Indian politics, we thought his train ride struck a blow instead for a degree of idealism.
How Rahul Gandhi Blew the Indian Rape Crisis Dilip D’Souza January 18, 2013

But he and FDR went a long way toward making American idealism and realism one and the same.
How Obama Can Restore American Idealism Ted Widmer November 8, 2008

Then imagine, at around age 20, giving it up forever, all of it, poetry, idealism—even hope.
When Your Hero’s an SOB Bruce Duffy July 31, 2011

Historical Examples

The virtue of idealism is as necessary as the virtue of realism; and every great writer shows his greatness by combining the two.
Social Rights And Duties Leslie Stephen

From the very beginning, the American people have been characterized by idealism.
The American Mind Bliss Perry

When idealism declines and becomes sheer bigotry, without the charm of imaginative power, it must have its Wiclif and its Luther.
Legends and Satires from Medival Literature Various

The characteristic attitude of the American mind, as we have seen, is one of idealism.
The American Mind Bliss Perry

The idealism and the loftiness that Harriet Prescott Spofford threw into her early romance, she threw into her lyrics.
A History of American Literature Since 1870 Fred Lewis Pattee

belief in or pursuance of ideals
the tendency to represent things in their ideal forms, rather than as they are
any of a group of philosophical doctrines that share the monistic view that material objects and the external world do not exist in reality independently of the human mind but are variously creations of the mind or constructs of ideas Compare materialism (sense 2), dualism (sense 2)

1796, in the abstract sense, originally “belief that reality is made up only of ideas,” from ideal (adj.) + -ism; on model of French idéalisme. Meaning “representing things in an ideal form” is from 1829.

An approach to philosophy that regards mind, spirit, or ideas as the most fundamental kinds of reality, or at least as governing our experience of the ordinary objects in the world. Idealism is opposed to materialism, naturalism, and realism. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was an idealist; so was Immanuel Kant.

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